Safety Blitz Aimed At Preventing Tragedy On The Tracks

BILOXI (WLOX) -- A freight train rolled down the tracks, blowing its horns. Drivers seemed oblivious to the fact that a powerful locomotive was within striking distance.

Surprisingly, just moments earlier, CSX, the state Department of Transportation, and Operation Lifesaver conducted a safety blitz at that very crossing on Caillavet Street.

"I'm down here this morning with Operation Lifesaver," an inspector told a driver. "Just trying to reduce the number of collisions with the train."

"Time and time again, we have to come down and work these tragic accidents," said Daniel Wayne Johnson, with MDOT Rails Enforcement. "And the numbers are just unreal when l you get calls once or twice a week for grade crossing collisions for Harrison and Jackson County."

"Trying to make people realize trains don't have steering wheels and they can't stop quickly," Bob Martin told a driver that he stopped.

Martin can speak from experience. He worked 20 years as a train engineer. Martin has witnessed more than 20 collisions with cars, even people.

"You wake up at 2, 3, 4 o'clock in the morning, and you see this over and over again," said Martin. "I put 33 months in Vietnam. I have no problem with that. That was my job. But I was not trained to see people needlessly lose their lives everyday at rail intersections."

Here's how Martin describes the impact of 6,000 tons of steel, smashing into the side of your car. He says it's like your car, running over an empty soda can.

Martin is now a Safety Supervisor for CSX.

"I walked away from a collision in 1988, and I've been in this education end of this program since 1988," Martin said. "And every day that I'm out here, I know somewhere I have saved somebody's life."

"If you just take the time to look and listen, you'll definitely live out here at these crossings," said Johnson.

A railroad safety blitz was also held on Highway 57 in Jackson County Wednesday afternoon. MDOT believes these public awareness campaigns really work. In 2006, 13 people were killed in train-related crashes in Mississippi. Last year, there were three fatalities.